Kids in crisis

Posted: July 30, 2014

IT FEELS LIKE there's a war on children.

There's really no other way to describe this loss of young life, here in Philly and across a world that these days feels as if it's going to hell.

In Philadelphia, it's been one horrific loss after another:

Just days before four kids died in an all-consuming July 5 fire started by fireworks or a cigarette or who knows what because no one is talking, there was the adorable 3-year-old girl crushed under a 2,000-pound Rita's Water Ice security gate that may not have been properly installed.

And then Friday, there were the three siblings who were plowed down by a couple of losers who allegedly beat and sexually assaulted the woman whose car they stole. The children and their mother were selling fruit to raise money for their church and a park that I hope people are tripping over themselves to build right now.

As if all that weren't enough to leave us shaking our heads at the seemingly unending cruelty and chaos around us, there was more. The next day, it was a 5-year-old boy executed by his father, cops say, at his 3-year-old cousin's birthday party in Delaware County. If the little boy's mother survives the gunshots his father allegedly coldheartedly pumped into her, that's the unimaginable loss she'll be waking up to.

And this war on children, it's not just here; it feels as if it's everywhere. There's the bloodshed of children in Gaza; the inhumanity shown desperate immigrant children pouring over our borders; the forgetful parents, it seems everywhere, leaving their children in overheated cars-turned-graves. Then - my God - being told that maybe they should leave their smartphones in the back seat so they won't forget their kids. What is wrong with us?

Granted, these are all different, sometimes complicated, circumstances. But the same result: dead children.

Is it worse than usual? Or does it just feel that way? On social media, on my train into work and on my walk into the office, I've heard people talking about how they just can't deal anymore. They're debating whether things are really as bad as they seem or if the bad news, thanks to the Internet and shrinking news staffs dependent on breaking news, is getting to them faster and more often.

They say they need a break. They're tuning out or turning away - which is exactly what we cannot do.

That was clear in the numbers in a recent Daily News editorial after the deadly Gesner Street fire.

The city averaged nearly 450 child deaths a year in 2009-10, the most recent statistics compiled by the city Health Department's Child Death Review Report:

* More than 200 children died from homicide and suicide.

* Thirteen children died from abuse or neglect; nine were younger than 2.

Also, 29 children 10 and younger were killed and 19 were shot from 2011 to 2013, according to police.

I don't know what the common denominator for all this loss is - Guns? Mental illness? Geopolitics? - but there is certainly one common agent in most, and it's adults failing children.

That's the case with Hamas, with drug lords in Central America, with carjackers in Philly, with adults who I'm convinced know something about who started that Gesner Street fire but haven't dragged the culprits to the closest police station. What we have are adults failing. Failing to act like the natural protectors of children, regardless of familial relationships. Cavalier about the consequences to children of that failure.

"So how does failed human nature get corrected?" a friend asked when I shared my frustrations.

I don't know the answer to that, other than to say there isn't one answer. But at the very least our fatigue with this tragic litany of dead children should be more than matched by our anger with the adults who killed those children for selfish, sometimes evil behavior.

If we can't or won't protect our children, then what does it say about us?

What becomes of us?


Email: ubinas@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5943

On Twitter: @NotesFromHel

On Facebook: Helen.Ubinas

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